Are employers required to pay employees if they clock in before their start time?
When it comes to payroll, 15 minutes here and 20 minutes there can quickly add up to a few hours of overtime pay each week and that can send your payroll budget over the edge.
To curtail the expense employers will often establish a policy or practice that they will not pay employees overtime if they clock in early or stay late without getting approval from their supervisor. Sometimes employers go so far as to change the employee’s time card to the time the employee is scheduled to work, thus eliminating the overtime payment. So what’s wrong with that?
First of all the Fair Labor Standards Act states that employers are required to pay employees for the time worked. Second of all, employers should not change a time card unless it is actually incorrect for some reason and both the employee and the supervisor initial the card – for example, you have a time card system and an employee picks up the wrong card and clocks in. In that case, the card will have to be changed and both the supervisor and the employee should initial the change. (It would also be a good idea for the supervisor to document what happened.)
What you CAN do?
Make sure your company has a policy that states that overtime must be pre-approved and that policy should be included in your employee handbook. Even though you have to pay the employee for the hours worked, you can and should discipline them for working overtime without pre-approval.